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Algebra Solving – The "See Saw" Way
Often, students make careless mistakes while solving algebra questions when manipulating mathematical terms. This is so because of the understanding of mathematical operations and the actual meaning of the “equals” symbol that connects two mathematical expressions. Moving variables or mathematical terms from the left side to the right side (or vice versa) of the “equals” symbol will cause a potential problem.
To cite examples of common mistakes made:
1) x + 5 = 4 became x = 4 + 5
2) 2y = 6 becomes y = 6 / (-2)
Mathematics teaching and learning can be simplified using popular apps. In this case of solving algebra, teachers can use the “See Saw” concept of the playground to explain the solution of the mathematical operation. “See Saw” is actually a play element and is a long wooden plank pivoted in the center by which two children or adults can each sit at both ends and alternately move up and down. When both children have the same weight and are stationary, the board will be level. When either side adds upward force, the other side goes down. This concept can be helpful in solving algebra through understanding the act of balance.
Balancing the “see saw” is similar to balancing the algebraic terms on both sides of the “equals” symbol. In short, if the left side of the algebraic relation has a newly added term, the right side must also be added with the same new term from the left side in order to maintain balance and stay level. This is the true meaning of “equal”. Similarly, if one side has a subtracted term, the other side must also have the same subtracted term to maintain balance. Also, if one side is completely divided by a variable or mathematical term, the other side must also be divided by the same thing to keep the meaning “equal”.
To explain in mathematical terms, let’s show an example:
1) x + 6 = 3. To make the x the only subject on the left side, we need to subtract the “6” from the left side. The “equals” symbol will not hold if the right side does not perform the same mathematical operation as the left side, i.e. subtract “6” as well.
So x + 6 – 6 = 3 – 6 which becomes x = -3 (correct answer). Is the concept simple?
2) 5y = 10. To make y the only subject, we need to divide the left side of the math expression by 5. This forces us to also divide the right side by 5 to stay equal.
So 5 years / 5 = 10 /5. This results in y = 2 (correct answer). See the simplicity!
Common applications can be used to explain many mathematical operations and should be used in mathematics education. In this example, if learners have this concept of applying “see saw” to solving algebras, they will no longer make careless errors.
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